Goal Setting in Relationships

Setting goals with your partner can be a double-edged sword. On one end, when you achieve them you feel joy and exhilaration for having realized a dream or aspiration. On the other hand, when you fail to meet them, you may face disappointment as you are forced to reevaluate your ambitions. When it comes to your relationship, setting achievable goals with a tone of collaboration can help enrich each other’s lives and support the bond between you and your partner.

The Anatomy of Relationships

No relationship is the same, and just like people change over time, so does a relationship. According to Donald Peterson, contributing author of “Goal Concepts in Personality and Social Psychology,” there are five general stages that can be distinguished in the development of close relationships: acquaintance, buildup, continuation, deterioration and ending. Obviously not all relationships go through all stages, but the changes in goals from one stage to another are critical in determining the course a relationship will follow.

Stephen John Read and Lynn Carol Miller, also contributing authors of “Goal Concepts in Personality and Social Psychology,” recount how individuals may base their projections of what a relationship might be like with someone in part on how each other’s life goals will mesh with one other. The idea that “opposites attract” has been debunked by research showing how “most married couples tend to be more alike than different in regards to life goals, interests, values and personality dispositions, as well as education, economic status, and other sociological variables.” In other words, when evaluating a prospective partner, people look at how they can accomplish goals in common, for example having intellectually stimulating conversations, having children, etc.

 

Goal-Setting Strategies

Relationship goals can cover the gamut, including areas such as problem solving, emotional support, financial goals, creating a family, etc. One way to set goals in your relationship is by having a weekly meeting with your significant other to go over the upcoming week and set a ‘to-do’ list of items for each other. Then, review those same items from the past week and move forward anything still needing to be completed. As part of this process, share three positive things big or small that your partner did that you liked in the past week, and one negative thing you would like them to consider working on. In time, you will have created a habit of openly talking about where things are with your relationship, and where you want them to be.

Another way to set goals with your significant other is by applying some of the guidelines set forth in “Goal Setting: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Goals.” Authors Susan B. Wilson and Michael S. Dobson recommend writing them down in specific measurable terms, so that you can visualize and achieve them with realistic deadlines. As part of defining these goals, make sure to keep them manageable and actionable, as well as include a regular review of their progress. Reward desired behavior, reinforce successes however big or small and provide feedback when correction is needed. When correcting, do so in private and be specific, focusing on the error and not the person to avoid grudges and keep a healthy outlook. Develop objectives for both the short and long term.

 

From Extrinsic to Intrinsic Motivation

In a study published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” researchers examined the connection between relationship satisfaction and self-regulation. “Individuals experiencing higher levels of satisfaction in their relationship exhibit higher levels of perceived control, goal focus, perceived partner support, and positive affect during goal pursuit.” This results in higher rates of daily progress on personal goals. In other words, as your relationship satisfaction increases, so does your motivation to effectively self-regulate your actions and progress toward achieving your goals.

According to Peterson, goals between partners tend to converge to the extent that transformations occur mutually. For example, “a person who initially stopped smoking to please a partner may genuinely come to find smoking abhorrent.” Changes in personal dispositions of this kind are independent of the relationship, and when they occur they can reduce the demands for accommodation by shifting the motivation from an extrinsic to an intrinsic place. Keep in mind that any union is limited by the biological needs and personal goals of the individuals in the relationship, so revisiting them on a regular basis can keep interests and values aligned in the long term.

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From: Live Strong by Raquel Villareal

Signs your ‘person’ is a commitment-phobe

You know a commitment-phobe when you see one on TV, or you wouldn’t have groaned every time Blair and Chuck got back together again. But in your own life, spotting that commitment-phobe in between all the “I’m not sure when I’ll be free tonight’s” is a tougher challenge. Here, Dr. Berit Brogaard, Professor and Director of the Brogaard Lab for Multisensory Research at the University of Miami, explains how to spot avoidant attachment in the wild:

1. You don’t feel “matched” in your texts. 

In your messages, you’ll actually go deep into details about how your day was, providing plenty of opportunities for the other person to ask you, well, anything. But a commitment-phobe, according to Brogaard, will have “a tendency not to continue a text message thread, by replying briefly or submissively with ‘K,’ ‘Sounds like fun,’ ‘Wow,’ ‘IDK’ and so on.” So before you let them off the hook for bad texting, consider the fact that they could be emotionally unavailable.

2. Even after a great date, you won’t hear from them anytime soon. 

Brogaard warns that commitment-phobes tend to not initiate contact first and will go through long periods of radio silence after dates—meaning YOU always have to do all the romantic legwork.

3. They’re irritatingly vague about their schedule. 

Here are some key phrases that Brogaard says raise commitment-phobia alarm bells:

  • “I’m really busy at work right now. But let’s get together in a few weeks when things slow down a bit.”
  • “Sorry I haven’t been in touch for so long. Things have been crazy around here. What have you been up to?”
  • “Sorry, didn’t see your text ’til now. How are you?”

Ok, we’ve all sent the “omg so sorry, just saw this!” text after a four-hour Netflix binge. There’s a huge difference, though, when someone does this all the time, to the point where your main interaction with them is rainchecking.

4. They only plan dates around what’s convenient for them. 

Since their schedule is just ~too busy~, their ideas of dates include inviting you to a bar where, oh wow, *their* team is currently playing and it’s suuuuuch a tight game! Who cares that you don’t know the full rules of basketball and don’t really care? Not this guy, who only tells you when he’s free three hours in advance!

5. They’re chronically late, chronically flakey, or a lovely combo of both. 

Because they don’t want to view dating as “serious”, they don’t stress over or prioritize getting there on time and don’t really care if them canceling screws up their chances with you.

6. They’re pretty impulsive, but only when it comes to you. 

“They may be very conscientious and hardworking at work or in school but then be impulsive when it comes to going out or getting together,” says Brogaard. Everything comes before the person they’re dating.

7. They constantly reiterate how casual everything is. 

Another key phrase Brogaard says to be wary of is “Not sure I’m ready for a relationship right now. Give me some time.” You’ll make your desire for monogamy clear, and rather than breaking things off to spare any hurt feelings, they’ll string you along with promises of a “maybe-one-day” relationship.

8. They’re “not great” with PDA. 

“It’s difficult for commitment-phobes to show signs of affection, especially in public,” says Brogaard. “They will tend not to say ‘I love you’ back, or they will only say it after drinking or the like. Some can only put it in writing but not say it (or vice versa).”

9. They usually don’t have true, close friends. 

While “they may still be part of a big circle of people who meet up” according to Brogaard, they don’t have friends they’ve stuck with for a long time and have a deeper relationship with.

10. They won’t actually admit fault in their past relationships. 

“They might blame the other person or simply say ‘we weren’t a good match’ or ‘we were just really bad for each other’,” says Brogaard. They have yet to experience any crucial post-breakup epiphanies about their own patterned dating flaws.

11. Or they won’t even call a past relationship a relationship. 

That girl he saw exclusively for six months was completely casual, and he has no idea why she freaked out and deleted their whole Eurotrip album when he sent her a breakup text.

12. They had lots of short relationships or pretty shallow long-term ones. 

“If they had long relationships, they were usually not very committed,” says Brogaard. “Even when they were committed on the surface (for instance, engaged or married), you might discover that the two of them led very separate lives.”

13. They’ll keep saying they want to “take things slow” as an excuse. 

Of course, cautiously easing into a new relationship is a perfectly normal (and emotionally healthy!) thing to do. But you have to wonder if your relationship is moving anywhere at all. “People who are taking it slow will tend to move forward,” says Brogaard. “Commitment-phobes will tend to provide obstacles to any relationship progress.”

14. They always need more space than you’re giving them. 

Even the honeymoon period of seeing each other a lot scares them. For commitment-phobes trying to work on their dating issues, Brogaard recommends dating someone who “is very busy in their own life”, so that space is never an issue.

15. They complain about the pressure to be in a monogamous relationship a lot. 

Obviously, societal norms can be annoying, but if they talk negatively about marital expectations more often than any of the upsides of a strong partnership, it kind of shows that they deep down think monogamy never really works out.

16. You can tell that something about relationships clearly freaks them out, but they can’t articulate it. 

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, after all. Brogaard suggests possible questions to ask a commitment-phobe about their fears of relationships: “Is it that they impose on your need for alone time? Is it that you have intimacy issues? Is it that you set unrealistically high standards for potential partners? Once you realize what it is, you can work on that particular issue (for instance, make sure that your partner is willing to give you plenty of alone time, if that is what you are craving).”

Commitment-phobia is definitely curable if a person wants to work on it and explore why they think that ALL relationships will end up being disappointing. But that dude sending you another “haha :)” before ghosting for two days is probably not on that path right now.

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From Cosmopolitan by Julia Pugachevsky

 

Why You Accidentally Ruin Your Relationships, Based On Your Love Language

Words Of Affirmation

You send good morning texts the second you rise from your sleep. You say I love you with zero hesitation. You brag to your friends about how you’ve found the perfect person for you. You are always talking about how much you like your person, but words aren’t enough. You have to follow through on what you say. Your actions need to match your voice. Telling someone you want to spend the weekend together or take a vacation upstate doesn’t actually mean anything if you back out of plans when the time comes. You have to keep your promises. You have to prove that your word means something.

Quality Time

When you like someone, you want to spend as much time with them as possible. You text them from morning until night. You invite them over every weekend. You expect to see them whenever you find free time in your schedule. Sometimes, without even realizing what you’re doing, you suffocate people. You make them feel like they aren’t allowed to hang out with their own friends and need to check in with you constantly. Sometimes, they will even feel like you don’t trust them. Like you keep such close tabs on them because you’re worried they are up to something. That miscommunication can put a strain on the relationship.

Receiving Gifts

You might not show someone your burning love for them on a daily basis, but when the holidays come around, you are the best gift giver in town. You show your affection by spending hours browsing through websites for a present that fits them perfectly. Because of that, some people mistakenly believe that you are materialistic. Shallow. That you only care about money. They don’t look close enough at your presents to see how sentimental they are, how much thought you put into them. They wish you would show your love through your daily actions instead of only through material items on special occasions.

Acts Of Service

You will buy groceries for someone who is low on cash. You will drive miles to pick someone up at the airport. You will risk getting in trouble at work to answer important texts. When it comes down to it, you’re too nice. You go out of your way to help people before they even ask and end up getting walked over. That’s why, sometimes, you feel like you’re already in a relationship when you’re not. You get invested in people, you try to save people, and find yourself in yet another almost relationship.

Physical Touch

You love holding hands while you walk. Resting a hand on their thigh beneath the table. Cuddling during movie dates. Getting touchy underneath the covers. Since you are so hands-on, some people mistakenly believe you are only interested in physical intimacy. They question whether you really like them or whether you are only using them as a warm body to press up against while you sleep. They need reassurance that you like their personality, too. That you aren’t only with them because you’re lonely and would get close to anyone who offered their affection.

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From Thought Catalog by Holly Riordan

I Didn’t Deserve The Pain You Put Me Through

Screw you for being too much of a coward to admit you had feelings for me. For worrying about how much I could hurt you in the future if you actually let yourself feel, so you decided to treat me like nothing instead. So you decided to push me away instead of pulling me closer. 

Screw you for letting your past get in the way of our future. For hating me for things that your ex did. For assuming I would hurt you in the same way that she did, even though I’m nothing like her. Even though I’ve proven to you that I’m someone different, someone worth your while. 

Screw you for getting scared off whenever I tried to get closer to you. For making me feel like I did something wrong, just by loving you. For convincing me that I was the problem, not you, never you. 

Screw you for calling me when you were drunk, when you had downed too many beers to think straight, instead of just being honest with yourself while sober. Screw you for only admitting you cared about me when you were six beers deep.

Screw you for lying about little things when you should have told the truth, because you wanted to keep a safe distance from me. Because you were worried about what would happen if you actually let me see the real, raw you. 

Screw you for hurting me ‘before I could hurt you.’ For thinking that our relationship was some sort of competition and refusing to be the loser. For bracing yourself for destruction instead of realizing that we could have actually had something great. 

Screw you for never giving us a chance. Because I’ve been hurt before, too. I could have blamed you for things my ex did. I could have let my fear chase me away from you.

But I didn’t. Because I was willing to take a risk to be with you. Because I genuinly cared about you. Apparently more than you cared about me.

I hate you for what you put me through. I hate you for making me fall and then leaving me to drop.

I didn’t deserve all of the pain you put me through. I didn’t deserve to be led on for months and then hear that you weren’t looking for a real relationship. I didn’t deserve to be strung along until you decided that you couldn’t handle me anymore.

But for some reason, none of the horrible things you’ve done have changed my feelings for you.

I still like you. I still want you.

So screw you for being so attractive, so intelligent, so much fun to flirt with. Screw you for making me want you, even long after you left. Screw you for being the one person I can’t stop thinking about.

Screw you for getting over me. Because I’m still not over you.

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From: Thought Catalog by Holly Riordan

We Were Never Together, So Why Can’t I Stop Thinking Of You?

You were never my boyfriend. Sure, we flirted, dancing together in your living room and exchanging back massages in your bedroom. Sure, we cuddled, pretending to watch television while our bodies were pressed together in an act more intimate than sex. Sure, we kissed, your lips against my mouth and neck while your hands cradled my hips. But we were never together, so why can’t I stop thinking of you?

You snuck winks at me when you realized everyone else was glancing away. You kept your arm around me when you saw them staring straight on. We had a connection that was more than casual. Real friendship mixed in with our flirtations. Laughter and inside jokes tangled in with the sexual tension. But neither of us did anything about it, so why can’t I stop thinking of you?

I can still hear your voice, lightly singing along in my car, hoping I couldn’t hear. Can still smell your cologne, with the scent that grew thicker as we hugged for a few moments too long. Still see your eyes, flicking down to my lips, waiting for another kiss we would pretend meant nothing. But it’s been months since we’ve actually seen each other, so why can’t I stop thinking of you?

We stopped talking out of nowhere. Lost contact on every platform in a world overflowing with ways to connect. We never said goodbye, and I still can’t figure out why that is. But if we ever ran into each other again, we wouldn’t acknowledge the lack of closure. No, we’d act like everything was normal, like we were two platonic friends, just like we always did. But nothing ever happened and nothing ever will, so why can’t I stop thinking of you?

I’ve been spending more time with myself, learning the ins and outs of my brain and body. Trying to find out who I am without you and what I want besides you. Realizing that enough “me” time can cure the loneliness you’ve infected me with. But I’m happy now, so why can’t I stop thinking of you?

I’ve met a new man who has stolen your title as the love of my life. He holds me like you did and kisses me like you did. Except he exists in the present tense while you’re just an exhausting memory floating around in the back of my brain. He’s never going to ghost or say goodbye. He’s nothing like you, not in the good ways or the bad. But he loves me, and he’s helped me learn to love me. He’s helped me learn a lot of things.

And that’s why I’ve finally stopped thinking of you.

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From Thought Catalog by Holly Riordan

Love Isn’t About Chasing Perfection, It’s About Finding Something Real

I’m tired of contemporary dating—quick, easy, convenient, swipe left, swipe right. We judge someone’s character by a picture on a four-inch screen. We jump from person to person, never satisfied. We buy into the hookup culture, thinking that people only want us for our bodies, for what we can give. So we give and give and just end up empty.

We don’t know how to love anymore. We think that love is returned text messages, romantic kisses, a little effort, and someone who doesn’t try to sleep with us on the first date.

We skip past the butterflies, the nervous dinners, and the awkward should-we-kiss-or-not moments. We don’t get to know people, really know them. Know the way their nose crinkles when they laugh, what gets them fired up, the way they like their eggs, or their favorite quote.

We don’t take the time to understand the inner workings of one another’s minds, the quirks, the interactions that make the relationship truly special.

We see each other’s bodies before we know each other’s hearts. Then we frantically work backwards, trying to make up for all we’ve lost.

Dating has become this terrain to navigate. And love is this glorified, semi-unrealistic thing we fall into by accident. We’re supposed to weed out people that aren’t compatible and not looking for the same things, and somehow in all that mess, we’re supposed to find ‘the one.’ This lover who will complete us, melt into our lives in all the right ways.

But love isn’t like that.

There isn’t this magical man or woman who will complete us, whose heart will fully interweave with ours without conflict or doubt. We don’t just find this person—there is no perfect person.

People are flawed and difficult. Even in the most wonderful person, there will be ways he/she doesn’t measure up. Our relationships will still be challenging, frustrating, and downright hard. So we can’t expect this ideal because it will pull us away, keep us wishing for something we’ll never find.

We need to stop chasing this idea that there’s a ‘Mr/Miss Right’ out there. We need to quit bringing one another’s faults into the light. We need to stop seeing people as stepping stones to our ‘one true love’. And we need to stop giving ourselves away to people who don’t deserve us, just because we’re trying to desperately to fall in love.

Love isn’t found on a phone screen, or in the small-talk on a date. It isn’t found bouncing from person to person, from seeing someone’s naked body.

It isn’t found by chasing perfection. Because perfection isn’t real.

Love and perfection are two different things. Love is real. Finding someone who will drive you crazy, but still make your life wonderful—that’s real. Learning someone’s inner fears, discovering what makes them laugh, finally working up the courage to kiss them—that’s real.

That’s what dating and what love are supposed to be about: finding a person whose mind and heart connect with yours in strange, fun, new, and flawed ways.

Finding something real. Something beautiful, rather than perfect.

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From Thought Catalog by Marisa Donnelly